human trafficking

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state Senate Judiciary committee will consider a bill tomorrow that would make it easier for criminals to have part of their records expunged.

House Bill 4186 would allow people convicted of a single felony or a couple of misdemeanors to apply to have them removed from their record.

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Governor Rick Snyder has approved new laws to make it easier to prosecute pimps and human traffickers. The legislation is supposed to protect victims of human trafficking from criminal charges. One of the new laws shields children who are trafficked from prostitution charges. 

Theresa Flores wrote a book about being trafficked as a teenager in metro Detroit. She says protection for victims will encourage them to cooperate with prosecutors to help send traffickers to prison. 

Attorney General Bill Schuette has been reelected.
Bill Schuette

The Michigan Legislature has given final approval to bills that aim to "fully combat human trafficking and assist victims."

The bills now head to Gov. Rick Snyder.

Among other things, the bills would let victims clear their criminal records. Minors under age 18 suspected of prostitution would be presumed to be trafficking victims, and "johns" soliciting sex from minors would face tougher criminal penalties.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Bills meant to fight human trafficking in Michigan are on track to clear the state Legislature before the end of this week.

The bipartisan legislation would make it easier to prosecute human trafficking cases, increase penalties, and provide more services for victims. The state House passed several bills in the package on Wednesday.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are making their way through more than a dozen bills targeting human trafficking this week.

The bills would provide a safe harbor for victims, allow victims to sue their abusers, and eliminate the statute of limitations on trafficking offenses.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette kicked off his reelection campaign today in his hometown of Midland.

In his speech, Schuette touted his record in office, including efforts to combat human trafficking and protect pensions.

“A record that’s strong and clear. It’s a record of being a voice for victims. A voice for the constitution and a voice for Michigan,” says Schuette. “It’s a long election and I’m going to win. I’m going to take my case to the citizens across the state of Michigan.”

Schuette didn’t directly address the controversy over same-sex marriage.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

There are dozens of bills before the Michigan Legislature dealing with human trafficking.  

Another 23 bills were unveiled today as part of a package dealing with forced labor and prostitution.

Kurt Heise is the chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee. He says the bills introduced this week not only go after the pimps and johns but also acknowledges the needs of the victims.

“We look at the young people and the vulnerable adults who are trafficked as victims and that they get the love and support that we can provide,” says Heise.

Courtesy of Bill Schuette

A state task force says a new approach is needed to address human trafficking in Michigan.

Among its recommendations: Minors who are sold for sex or cheap labor should not be charged with prostitution, delinquency or some other crime.

“A 15-year-old girl who is forced to have sex is a victim and not a criminal,” says state Attorney General Bill Schuette, who convened the commission. “Everyone needs to understand this.”

Advocates who participated say that means doing more than just changing laws. 

“How can we get them into that category of victim and out of that category of criminal?” says Bridgette Carr of the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan.

The FBI has just completed a nationwide sweep resulting in the arrest of 150 pimps and the rescue of 105 children who had been forced into prostitution. We took a closer look at human trafficking in our state.

And, we spoke with Leigh Ann Ulrey, one of 30 college graduates to be selected for the Challenge Detroit program.

And, a new House bill could eliminate state income tax. State Representative Bob Genetski joined us to talk about why he thinks income tax is unnecessary.

Also, self-driving cars could be available to consumers within the next 2-3 years, according to Google. We found out what the future of transportation might look like.

First on the show, there was an important handshake this afternoon in Lansing.

UAW President Bob King shook hands with state government officials to officially launch the start of contract talks.

UAW Local 6000's contract with the state expires at the end of 2014. But the state needs to finalize the next contract by the end of this year in order to get it funded in next year's budget. Local 6000 represents 17,000 state employees.

Let's look at what the big issues might be in the negotiations.

Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network's Lansing bureau chief, joined us today.

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The FBI recently completed a national sweep that led to the arrests of 150 pimps and the rescue of 105 children who were forced into sex slavery. The sweep was called the Innocence Lost National Initiative.

There were ten children (as young as 13-years-old) rescued in Detroit and 18 arrests were made, which put the city in the number two slot in the national sweep's ranking.

Elizabeth Campbell, a staff attorney for the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan, wasn't surprised by those numbers, even though they were higher than many of the cities that were included. 

"Every American community has this problem, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I'd like to believe that [higher numbers in Michigan] are because we have great cooperation with law enforcement, but we also have certain factors that have made us susceptible to such operations."

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Wolf hunting licenses may be delayed

Michigan wolf hunting licenses are expected to go on sale Saturday. But Ed Golder, Michigan's Department of Natural Resources public information officer, says that date may not work out because of high demand. When the wolf hunting licenses do go on sale, the state will sell up to twelve-hundred of them. The hunt is limited to six counties in the Upper Peninsula. Only 43 wolves will be allowed to be killed.

Energy assistance will help low-income families

State regulators have approved a 99-cent monthly fee to help low-income Michigan residents pay their energy bills and avoid losing electricity, natural gas, or propane. The charge applies to all customers, starting in September, unless a utility opts out of the program. The Michigan Public Service Commission says only a few so far have declined to participate.

According to the Associated Press, if a utility opts out of the program, it can't cut off power between November and April 15th. Michigan's largest utilities, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, plan to participate.

MI State Police cracking down on human trafficking

Michigan State Police say 10 teenage girls forced into prostitution have been rescued as part of a national crackdown. Detroit Sergeant Ed Price says the girls were removed from motels and other locations last week in Wayne, Genesee, Oakland and Macomb counties. According to the Associated Press, eighteen suspected pimps were arrested, although only one in Flint has been charged so far. The investigation is ongoing.

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Governor Snyder expected to appoint an EM for Detroit today

Governor Rick Snyder is expected to announce his pick for Detroit's emergency manager today. As the Detroit Free Press reports,

"Snyder is widely expected to name high-powered Washington, D.C., lawyer Kevyn Orr, 54, who worked in a number of federal government roles and had a hand in Chrysler’s bankruptcy turnaround."

Commission will study human trafficking

"A commission will spend six months studying the problem of human trafficking and child prostitution in Michigan. The task force will then deliver a set of recommendations on new laws and ways to connect victims of human trafficking with help. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette convened the task force," Rick Pluta reports.

Odawa tribe to allow same-sex marriage

"The chairman of a northern Michigan Indian tribe says he'll sign a same-sex marriage bill Friday, then preside at the wedding of two men. The legislative body of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians voted 5-4 on March 3 to amend the Harbor Springs-based tribe's laws to allow same-sex marriages," the Associated Press reports.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Bill Schuette / Facebook.com

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

When you hear the term "human trafficking" and let yourself think about what that entails, you might think of it as something that happens overseas, perhaps in exotic places.

traffickfree

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

Though largely unrecognized and difficult to pin a number to, human trafficking occurs in Michigan. Theresa Flores says the practice increases during events like the North American International Auto Show.

Flores heads Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (S.O.A.P), a group actively working to rescue young girls and boys from trafficking.

S.O.A.P. is making a visit to the Auto Show in an attempt to reduce the prostitution that can plague large events like this.

Theresa Flores is a social worker, and director of education and training for Gracehaven House, in Ohio. It's a long term faith based care and rehabilitation home for young girls who have been victimized by human trafficking.

Flores grew up in an upper-middle class catholic home. Many years ago she found herself in the same situation as some of the young women she now helps.

Flores says she moved around a lot. Her father had a good job, and her parents were very strict. They landed in Birmingham, Michigan.

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We continue our series on human trafficking.

Identifying victims of this crime can be difficult. But as Amy Allen tells us, there are signs we can watch out for.

Allen is a victim and witness specialist from Homeland Security Investigations. She is stationed in Michigan and travels locally and abroad to help victims of human trafficking.

UM Law School's Human Trafficking Clinic.

Human trafficking is a growing crime in Michigan, and the U.S.

At its most basic level, even identifying victims of this crime can be difficult.

In the first of our three part series we’ll look at the challenge of providing assistance to victims.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White spoke with Elizabeth Campbell, Staff Attorney at the University of Michigan Law School’s Human Trafficking Clinic.

Campbell says there are mostly two categories of human trafficking.

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Each Monday, as part of our "Seeking Change" series, we’re checking in with someone who’s trying to improve life for people in Michigan. I spoke this morning with Andy Sopher about a particularly difficult subject: sex trafficking of kids. Sopher is with Wedgewood Christian Services in Grand Rapids and is behind a new project aimed at curbing trafficking of youngsters.

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The state attorney general’s office has filed the first charges under the Michigan’s updated law against human trafficking. A man is accused of forcing two teen-aged girls in Detroit to become prostitutes.

The man is charged with two counts of inviting teen-aged girls to parties and then forcing them to work as prostitutes, collecting all of the money, beating them for not earning enough, and sexually assaulting them himself. The attorney general’s new Human Trafficking Unit is trying to extradite him from California.

A study done last year for the Michigan Women’s Foundation found as many as 160 cases a month of girls being sold online or through escort services in Michigan. The study did not track how often teen-aged girls and boys are offered on the streets or in hotel rooms. But human trafficking is becoming more common across the country.

The Michigan Women’s Foundation says the new charges and penalties are useful – but the state should also have a “safe harbor” law that ensures people forced to become prostitutes are treated as victims and not as criminals.